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What are Bulging Disc Exercises?

By Rebecca Freshour
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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Bulging discs occur along the spinal column. As spinal discs get worn down with age or repeated use, cartilage can bulge out and press into the spinal cord, causing a great deal of pain. In severe cases, the disc can rupture, pressing further into the spinal canal and causing nerve damage. Bulging disc exercises are an important part of the rehabilitation process for discs that bulge or are herniated and can, at times, alleviate the need for surgery. Exercises include pressure therapy on exercise balls, core-strengthening exercises, and stretching. The exercises should be performed after consultation with a physician or physical therapist, as the wrong exercises or stretching movements can result in further injury.

Some popular bulging disc exercises include the use of a large exercise ball, or Pilates ball. A patient sits on the ball and gently bounces up and down on the ball for several minutes per day. This can help the bulging disc to pump up and down, helping to improve blood flow.

Another widely used exercise involves the use of a small trampoline. With the trampoline positioned close to a wall or counter, an individual should step onto it with his head up and arms straight down at his sides. He should then slowly walk on the trampoline for four to five minutes. This can help improve balance, while strengthening the muscles located around the spine, allowing the pressure to be removed from the bulging disc. Jumping or running on the trampoline is not generally recommended.

Bulging disc exercises typically include stretching as well. There are several popular stretches used during therapy for a bulging disc. One of these stretches is called the cobra pose. To perform this stretch, an individual should lie on floor, face down, and push upward using the forearms and gently arching the back. He should then hold the position for about five seconds and release. This stretch can be repeated as many times as is comfortable — stretching should never be painful. This stretch helps even out the gel-like interior of the bulging disc.

Back strengthening exercises, such as a knee roll, can be helpful as well. To perform this exercise, an individual should lie on the floor face up, with the elbows touching the floor and knees bent. He should then join the knees together and gently roll from left to right, then right to left, touching the knees to the floor.

A knee stretch also can be performed from this position. The individual should lie on the floor face up, with arms and knees straight. He then bends one knee to the chest, hugging it close, and holding it for five to six seconds. He should then repeat with the other knee.

Though bulging disc exercises can keep someone from having to deal with a painful surgery, any physical routine should be discussed with a physician or physical therapist. Jogging or running is usually discouraged, and any exercise that requires bending and rotating simultaneously may be dangerous. Doctors also recommend that patients refrain from high-impact exercises and avoid over stretching when performing any stretching techniques.

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Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Jan 31, 2014

There are quite a few yoga positions that can help with a bulging disc. I actually have a yoga DVD that has positions specifically for disc pain.

The positions I like the most are the cat and cow positions. These stretch the back gently and help relieve pressure on the spine.

Something else that I learned from my doctor is an exercise to strengthen the back muscles. I lie on my back with my knees bent. I put my hands underneath my lower back. I push my back to try and touch the floor. Putting my hands underneath my back help me make sure that I'm doing it right. I only use my back muscles which makes them stronger.

By burcidi — On Jan 31, 2014

@ZipLine-- I highly recommend checking with your doctor first. If you exercise too soon after injury, you may cause more problems. Your doctor should tell you when it's safe to exercise and he or she should give you specific instructions on which exercises you can do and for how many repetitions. A physical therapist can also help you with this. If you're scheduled for physical therapy, it's a good idea to meet with the therapist first, before exercising at home.

Once your doctor has approved, you can gently do the exercises for a bulging disc mentioned in the article. But don't push yourself too much. If you feel any discomfort or pain, you must stop immediately.

By ZipLine — On Jan 30, 2014

I was diagnosed with a bulging spinal disc recently. I took pain relievers for a while and rested. I have not been doing any exercises for a bulging disc. Can I go ahead and do some of these exercises now since I don't have pain?

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